10 heart health terms explained

So you don't get completely confused by all the jargon your doctor uses when talking about heart disease

03 September 2014
by Andreas Wilson-Späth

1. Cardiovascular system

The body’s intricate internal plumbing network that circulates blood to all of its parts. It includes the blood vessels (arteries, veins and capillaries) as well as the heart itself, which contracts approximately 100 000 times every day to pump blood to and from organs, tissues and cells.

2. Cardiologist

A doctor specialising in the treatment of heart disease.

3. Palpitations

The sense that your heart is beating abnormally fast, slowly, heavily or irregularly in a pounding, fluttering or hammering manner.

4. Atherosclerosis

One of the main causes of heart disease, atherosclerosis involves the thickening and hardening of artery walls as a result of an accumulation of fatty material called plaque. The build-up of plague narrows the arteries and makes it harder for blood to flow. If plaque ruptures, a blood clot forms on its surface, which can stop blood flow altogether and lead to a heart attack or stroke.

5. Coronary heart disease

According to Dr Cassim Hansa, a Durban cardiologist, coronary heart disease involves a narrowing of the coronary arteries, which supply the heart muscle (or myocardium) with oxygen-rich blood, as a result of a gradual build-up of plaque. “This leads to a reduced blood supply downstream,” he says.

6. Angina

Pain, discomfort, tightness or heaviness of the chest, which may spread to the neck, jaw, back, arms or stomach. Angina is caused by a narrowing of the arteries that prevents sufficient blood from reaching the heart muscle when it’s in high demand, for instance, during exercise. This is frequently caused by coronary heart disease.

7. Heart attack

A severe or total blockage of a coronary artery, usually caused by a blood clot. It’s referred to medically as a myocardial infarction.

8. Angioplasty

A medical procedure to open blocked or narrowed arteries by inserting a thin, flexible tube called a catheter with a balloon-like device that can be inflated to compress plaque against the artery wall and restore blood flow.

9. Stent

“A stent is basically a metal scaffold in the form of a small mesh tube which is inserted into a blood vessel during an angioplasty procedure to reinforce the wall and keep the artery open,” says Dr Hansa.

10. Omega-3 fatty acids

These unsaturated fats which cannot be made by the human body are thought to counter blood clotting and irregular heartbeats, while lowering blood pressure and plaque-building triglycerides, thus reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Get your regular dose of omega-3 fatty acids from cold water fish, flaxseed and cod liver oil, soybeans and walnuts, or from one of a selection of supplements available at Clicks, including Omega 3, salmon oil and cod liver oil softgel capsules from Clicks Healthbasics, Vitaforce, Natrodale and other health brands.

How Clicks Clinics can help you

Clicks Clinics can help you prevent or manage heart disease with their wide range of screening tests. These include:

  • Blood Pressure (BP) Test
  • Cholesterol Testing and Consultation
  • Lipogram Blood Test (to determine different types of cholesterol)
  • Clicks Full Basic Screening (BP, Body Mass Index or BMI, meal guide and exercise plan)
  • Clicks Screening Measurements only (BP and BMI)
  • Clicks Comprehensive Screening (BP, BMI, Glucose and Cholesterol screening, plus meal and exercise plan) 

To make an appointment at a Clicks Clinic, call 0860 254 257 or visit Clicks Clinics online.

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Read More: Heart Disease Super Section